Gartenstraße Music Hall Theatre Berlin, Historic German Building, Architect
Gartenstraße Music Hall Theatre : Berlin Architecture
Berlin Theatre Building, Germany – design by LAVA
22 Nov 2012
Music Hall Theatre in Berlin
Abandoned cabaret theatre discovered in Berlin
An old cabaret theatre from the roaring ’20s has been uncovered in the heart of Berlin. The semi-derelict music hall theatre, built in 1905 on Gartenstraße in Berlin Mitte, has been buried in 30 tonnes of rubble since 1934 when it closed, perhaps as part of a crackdown on the cabaret scene by the Nazi regime.
Surrounded by apartment buildings and only a few metres from the well-known city baths in trendy Mitte, the music hall theatre was found by accident by Dirk Moritz, founder of the Moritz Gruppe, Berlin. He stumbled upon the abandoned threestorey building located behind a courtyard in the former communist east of the city.
‘From the outside, with its bricked-up windows and rundown facade it was hard to imagine the impressive architecture that awaited me within. Opening the front door revealed an amazing sight: I found an old hall, a grand ballroom, a 300 square metre theatre, wall paintings and metre-high stuccoed ceilings. Memories of a glorious time at the beginning of the last century,’ said Mr Moritz.
After an exhaustive search into the history of the building, Moritz discovered it was designed by famous Berliner businessman/architect Oscar Garbe and constructed in 1905. In the same year, the theatre hall, complete with a stage and vaulted ceilings, was opened as a musical hall and restaurant, named “Fritz Schmidt’s Restaurant and Festival Halls” and was soon an established venue for Berlin’s ballroom society. A kitchen on the ground floor had a special lift to send up food and drinks to the hall on the second floor. Garbe built other prominent buildings in Berlin, including the Samariterkirche and the Ullsteinhaus.
After changing operators in 1919, it became “Kolibri Festival Halls and Cabarets”. Its location was in the Latin Quarter, as Berliners called it in the 1920s, and this period was the heyday of the German “Kabarett”. There are no records after 1934, when it appears that the theatre hall fell into oblivion, and no information about why it closed, although the Nazis often suppressed cabaret. After World War II, the lower floor was used for storing building rubble and rubbish. A locksmith moved in later but only used the ground floor. Weathering and long-term vacancy further contributed to its decline.
The Moritz Gruppe cleaned out the tonnes of rubbish and will now renovate the spaces. Called the SECRET GARDEN, the three level building will comprise spaces for performances and exhibitions, studios, meetings and conferences, and luxury apartments for short term and executive rental. The space is available for rent during construction and has recently hosted an exhibition by British artist Mike Nelson. ‘Unfortunately we can’t turn it back to a music hall due to city regulations but we will conserve interior features including the beautiful stucco. Our aim is to make a contribution to art and contemporary living – a mix of old and new. Otherwise this beautiful piece of history would just be forgotten completely and probably demolished at some point,’ added Mr Moritz.
‘There are only a few remaining structures from this period, for example Clärchens Ballhaus nearby, making it one of the last properties in Berlin where one can still experience the untouched atmosphere of the Twenties and the Thirties.’
Project developers, the Moritz Gruppe, asked internationally renowned firm LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture), with offices in Berlin and Sydney, to work with them on the design of the spaces. Construction will commence in March 2013, with completion due in mid 2014.
Gartenstraße Music Hall Theatre Berlin images / information from LAVA
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